CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Joyce Pitchford said spirits were lifted in a community suffering from economic strain after her Ravenswood High School choir students collected $10,000 Thursday from a national online voting competition.Pitchford's choral group won within its division in the "Glee Give A Note" competition. Winners in five regions split $1 million in prize money. Each division had 12 winners of $10,000 and two winners of $25,000, in addition to three national winners of $50,000.The creator and producers of "Glee" -- a hit Fox TV "dramedy" that follows the lives of students in a high school glee club in Ohio -- and the National Association for Music Education sponsored the contest for struggling music programs all across the country.Ravenswood has suffered an economic downturn in recent years after the Century Aluminum plant shut down and many families were left unemployed. The contest seemed to take everyone's mind off the stress, Pitchford said."Even if we hadn't won anything," she said, "it would have been worth every bit of it."Ravenswood and Bridgeport high schools were the only West Virginia schools in the contest. They competed in Region 4, which included schools from Alabama and Florida.Pitchford said she and her students were overwhelmed by the community's support. Everyone she knew voted multiple times in the competition."There were so many people counting on this and so many people that voted," she said. "I'm ecstatic that we pulled this off."Her students learned of the results Thursday afternoon.
"They were all off the ground in one big jump," she said.The high school's choral group received the fifth-most votes in the country, with about 30,000, she said."That's pretty impressive for a small community like Ravenswood," Pitchford said.The win couldn't have come at a more perfect time, she said, because next semester the group will put on a production of "Grease" and enter several regional competitions. The money will help purchase new equipment.Most of the existing equipment, she said, is worn out and left over from the 1980s.The group plans to buy new male uniforms and a couple of microphones, she said.
"In this day in age, $10,000 doesn't . . . go as far as you think," she said. "We are going to have to spend it wisely."She said her group would continue to look for contests to enter or grants to apply for."I hope other schools in West Virginia try this out," she said. "It's great for the state and even better for these schools."Reach Travis Crum at email@example.com or 304-348-5163.